Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Queer Comics for Your Pride-Reading Joy

Have your local events been canceled or postponed this year due to COVID-19? Celebrate Pride Month by picking up one of these queer comics!  ♦ 
I’m what is known as a “seasonal reader” — love stories are for February, spooky stories are for October, and queer stories are for June. As a bisexual woman, LGBTQ+ narratives have always been my favorites to read. However, one of the problems with the queer stories currently on the market is the overwhelming focus on two white gay men. What is supposed to be an inclusive body of work is instead very one-sided. Where are the lesbians? The nonbinary folks? People of color? When pride month is supposed to be about all queer people, it can feel exclusionary when most of your reading choices are for only one letter of the LGBTQ alphabet. On top of this, much of the queer literature that's out there seems to tend towards the tragic. And while these stories are important, during a month that’s meant to be about being proud of who you are, personally, I don’t want to read about homophobia, unaccepting parents, violence, depression, etc. There’s a time and a place for the Brokeback Mountains of literature, to me at least, it’s not in June.

Enter: the graphic novel.

While there are some great diverse releases in traditional prose fiction, graphic novels are telling stories through the whole spectrum of LGBTQ+ experiences, especially in the past few years. From a nonbinary Chinese werewolf to a cross-dressing prince, there’s really something for everyone. Many of the releases I’ve read in recent years have been mostly lighthearted, gentle, fun, and oh-so queer.

With that in mind, here are some of my favorite diverse and lighthearted queer graphic novels I’ve read recently:

The Prince and The Dressmaker by Jen Wang
I’m going to have a problem not reviewing every single graphic novel as just “adorable.” (But it is really adorable!) Prince Sebastian has a secret: every night he puts on a gorgeous dress and becomes Lady Crystallia, an icon in the Paris fashion world. He has help of course, from his brilliant dressmaker and now best friend Frances, who dreams of becoming a well-known dress designer. But if Lady Crystallia remains a secret, so does Frances. With uniquely beautiful illustrations and a story that reads like a fairy tale, this one you’ll definitely want to pick up!

Bingo Love by Tee Franklin
While this one errs more on the side of bittersweet rather than a completely feel-good read, it’s an amazing story and will leave you with a smile on your face. Bingo Love tells the story of two African-American women, Hazel and Mari, who meet at a bingo parlor in the 1960s as two teenagers. They quickly become friends and soon fall in love. But circumstances and unaccepting families tear them apart, only for them to find their way back to each other in a bingo parlor 50 years later, ready to make up for lost time. The graphic novel format really works for this because what could have been a tragic story about all the time that Hazel and Mari lost, the focus is primarily on the time that Hazel and Mari do have together.

Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker; illustrated by Wendy Xu
If The Prince and the Dressmaker was adorable, then Mooncakes is tooth-rotting fluff. Nova is an expert in witchcraft, working at her grandmother’s supernatural bookshop. One day while exploring a mystery for the store, she runs into her childhood crush Tam, who is now a werewolf and is battling some dark enemies. Together, Nova and Tam rekindle their feelings for each other, try to stop their demon foes, and make a little magic. When I saw this, it immediately reminded me of the Studio Ghibli film Kiki’s Delivery Service, and Mooncakes is just as magical. It is also incredibly inclusive, as both characters are Chinese, Tam is non-binary, and Nova is hard of hearing. Publishing has certainly come a long way in terms of supporting queer and diverse stories. There is always progress to be made, and supporting the stories that are out there can create a significant impact in the long run.

If you find you’ve got some time to kill between your (online) Pride events this year, consider picking up one of these graphic novels! These are just a few examples of the many outstanding queer graphic novels out there. Enjoy these, and then keep an eye out for more diverse releases in 2020 . . . this is a list that can always use more representation across every letter of the LGBTQ+ community.

  • About the Author
    Sabrina Ludwig is a senior Psychology student at Miami University. For the first three years she was on the path to premed, until she took a comic book class for fun and realized that medical school just wasn’t for her. After graduation, she is looking to pursue a career in publishing or editing. In her free time, you can find Sabrina hoarding books she’ll never finish, re-watching Marvel movies, and making various kinds of avocado toast.

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